BOOK REVIEW: Dear Upright African AUTHOR: Donald Molosi REVIEWED BY: Bura-Bari Nwilo*

I have followed Donald Molosi’s writings from social media to his book of plays,We Are All Blue. This new book, Dear Upright African, an activist manifesto to the African, I have also loved it and find it both impressive and challenging in terms of ideologies. What have remained unchanged about Donald’s writing are the energy and the commitment to it. In this new book, we see a passionate writer who uses his experiences and platforms to re-educate a system that we may not feel too disturbed to review.

Donald is calling for a review, re-seeing and all of us, Africans, are the ones to help effect this call. He calls the change agents Upright African and uses “Dear” and I feel it is metaphorical. In short, I think it is sarcastic. If we have ignored some very interesting and important part of the African heritage such as less attention to language and culture, then we may not be upright, except we are upright by faith.

Donald addresses the issue of speaking the African language, the teaching of African history in schools, disapproving of the fiction of our inferiority and the carelessness of governments across African countries that ban the use of the vernacular in workplaces and schools, for whatever reasons, in favour of colonial languages.

The book landed on my screen when I was questioning things around me – culture and the custodians of culture. I had seen a circulated letter by a king in Ogoniland (in Nigeria) where I come from where he had asked that an annual cultural display be halted and some harsh languages were used in describing the followership of the group. In one of the paragraphs, there was an issue of threat. And the security agencies in the county where this culture exists were copied.

The king sits on a traditional stool but was more of a Christian, propagating the ideologies of the church and paying little attention to his culture. In fact, he had less patience to tolerate the people that believed in things that were different from what colonialism handed to him.

While I would want to assume that Donald was not being sarcastic with the title of his book and believe that he was addressing the Upright African who was both conscious of his African-ness and ready to defend it, I wish to say it is high time we declared an emergency there and enforced supervision of schools that champion colonial tendencies while punishing anyone who held on to non-criminal acts that only institutes culture and Africa.

This book addresses the school system where Donald advocates for decolonized curricula and rules. It frowns upon the treatment of students who kept natural hair and whose punishment was to be referred to as Bushmen and given tags that may be culturally inappropriate.

Donald shares the story of his life and how he was made to memorise maps of another country when he could have been studying about his ancestors and their triumphs, thereby boosting his self-esteem, but Europe had its agenda. The foreign languages are now called economic languages because they aid transactions and you must learn them to thrive.
Donald excuses the use of his non-African name and attributes that to his forbears, a lineage thing. But while he has succeeded in making an excuse to keep his non-African name while urging others to take drastic measures, could it be possible that the Upright African can win all debates about his acceptability of Westernisation because he is usually an individual and may not have the resources and strength to confront the conglomerates that push for these orders?

We all can make fantastic excuses but if we must make a change, we must do away with the things that are so dear yet foreign because we are the messages we preach.

Donald’s book is confrontational and powerful. Its allegiance is to everyone who has confronted a bad system within Africa. From the writers who insist on writing in their native African languages despite how it may affect global acceptance, to school students who confronted apartheid so that South Africans may no longer live in fear.  It is a book that urges and reminds of the urgency of truly reclaiming Africa from our small dorms and offices.

*Bura-Bari Nwilo is the author of The Colour of a Thing Believed, a collection of short stories. It is available on Amazon.